Monday, May 7, 2012

Precariat? R'us? If not, then who?

We're who but not the only ones; now what about who else and 'what'? The University of Sydney, cited below, gives an overview in its news release introducing visiting speaker, UK economics professor Guy Standing (truly, a minimalist home page). 
The precariat consists of a growing number of people around the world who live in social and economic insecurity, without occupational identities, drifting in and out of jobs and constantly worried about their incomes, housing and much else. (sound familiar?)
"The precariat do excessive labour, including taking on several jobs at the same time or doing more unacknowledged 'work for labour' necessary to find or maintain a job," says Standing. "The precariat life includes futile rounds of training, networking, dealing with bureaucracy and handling financial affairs."
NewFac has since taken up following the precariat , 'knowledge workers' in particular. This includes but is not limited to precarious academics. Read the rest of The Precariat: the New Dangerous Class - News and Events - University of Sydney and then visit the following pages to learn more: 
"This book is about a new group in the world, a class-in-the-making. It sets out to answer five questions: What is it? Why should we care about its growth? Why is it growing? Who is entering it? And where is the precariat taking us?"
"Curiously though what makes The Precariat so fascinating is that which makes it so frustrating – Standing threshing out the implications of the growth of the precariat. There were points in the book where I wanted to jump into the pages and start arguing with the author there and then. He writes of the need for the precariat to organise and have a collective voice in the public domain but he quickly considers and dismisses the utility of trade unions in this regard; 'Progressives must stop expecting unions to become something contrary to their functions'. 
At the heart of this dismissal of the union movement lies Standing’s positioning of the precariat as a new class with “interests [that] are not the same as those of…core employees”. In attempting to illuminate the novelty of the precariat Standing marginalises aspects of continuity. For example, he does not consider how perhaps the precariat is a novel way of keeping a reserve army of labour in labour – thereby maximising both productive activity and placing downward pressure on wages. After all, the rise of precariousness has had a negative impact on the welfare and income of the ‘old’ industrial working class. Perhaps this is because Standing conflates how capital has changed the way it disciplines and controls labour since the 1970s with the creation of a new, discrete class that is separate from the rest of the working class."

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